Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
E5.1 Seen or not seen?
Previously we have considered that false humility and the worshipping of angels can disqualify us from the prize. Paul adds an extra piece of information, which must be confusing because translations seem to have contradictory alternatives.
The issue is around the clause: …which he hath not seen.
The KJV has the clause as: ‘Which he has not seen’. Yet others have the very opposite.
Some of the versions which have: ‘has not seen’ are. KJV, NKJV, Tyndale, YLT
Some of the Versions that have : ‘has seen,’ or equivalent: NIV, ESV, Weymouth
It appears that there is a significant division in the Manuscripts concerning this verse. So how are we to understand it? Whatever the text was in the autograph it makes no significant difference to the sense of the passage.
The false teachers are claiming to have received special knowledge from the supernatural world, by visions of angels in this case. We could say that they have seen certain things but in reality they haven’t because it was not from God, instead it was a deception from the enemy, or some sort of self -delusion.
We are including dreams in this discussion as the underlying principles are essentially the same. With the dreams that people claim are supernatural they seek for ways of interpreting a secret message from the supernatural world.
The Amplified Bible seems to give the sense of this verse.
Let no one defraud you of your prize [Your freedom in Christ and your salvation] by insisting on mock humility and the worship of angels, going into details about visons [he claims] he has seen[ to justify his authority] puffed up [in conceit] by his unspiritual mind.
Paul uses the phrase: ‘intruding into those things’. The word for intrude means to go in, to investigate, to enquire etc. These false teachers are trying to penetrate the secret invisible world. They try to do so by carnal means, and if necessary by forbidden ones. One such example is King Saul as to when he asked the witch of Endor to bring up Samuel, I Sam.28.
The important thing to note is that it was not God’s way, and when this happens it places those attempting this in a very dangerous spiritual place.
In the days in which we live there are so many voices crying for our attention. There are many books, internet articles, videos and so on that claim to have secrets from ‘the other side’. We must beware not to be drawn into this intruding of things, no matter how fascinating it appears to the flesh. We must keep our eyes focused clearly on Christ and not allow any of these modern days mystical experiences disqualify us from the prize.
E5.2 True or False?
We must, however, be careful not to go to extremes, by dismissing all visions as either demonic or hallucinations on the one hand or saying all visions are from God on the other. A scriptural balanced approach is necessary, though not always easy to achieve in any specific circumstance. Scripture does, though, give us some guidance on this.
Firstly, a word about Hallucinations. People have hallucinations for all sorts of reasons, mental health conditions and certain diseases for example. However one particular way is -by drug taking, either prescribed or illegal.
In Rev. 18:23 we have the word sorcery. The Greek being pharmakeia, from which we get our word pharmacy. It is well known that many witchcraft/ magical arts use drugs to induce hallucinations!
Hallucinations can also be induced by other means such as some form of altered sate of consciousness. We shall not comment any further on this, but is included for thought. The point being made is that just because someone has a vision it does not automatically mean it is from God.
E5.3 Visions from God
The Bible is replete with examples of genuine visons from God. What can we learn from them?
Firstly, the visons came to them. An example of this is in Acts 12, where Peter was in prison. We are told: the angel of the Lord came upon him… Acts 12:7. Nowhere in the text do we read that Peter was seeking for a vison of an angel!
The reader is encouraged to go through Acts in particular and see if this principle holds or not, with respect to the visons from God. This doesn’t guarantee a vision is from God but it is a pointer.
The people didn’t work themselves up into a particular state of emotion, or go through a ritual to get a vision. To go seeking visions as Saul did to get Samuel to appear is witchcraft pure and simple.
To get a vision when one has worked one’s self up into some sort of ‘right condition’ is a very strong indication that any resulting vision is not from God.
Secondly, they were rare events and for specific purposes. The vision of an angel to Samson’s parents is illuminating.
But the angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord.
The angel of the Lord only appeared to Samson’s parents for a specific time and for a specific purpose. It wasn’t a regular meeting with the angel!
On this basis claims of regular angel encounters from God have to be suspect. Jesus said we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, not angels.
Peter had the vision with the unclean food. Its purpose was to prepare Peter for the conversion of the Gentiles through Cornelius, Acts 10.
The visions to the OT prophets were also for specific purposes and a careful study will reveal them. Daniel for example had prophecies given to him of future (that is future to him) events. But we need to remember that the book covers more than 70 years, so the number of visions to years ratio is small indeed.
E5.3 concluding remarks
Scripture nowhere encourages the belief that visions are to be a regular thing, nor does it suggest we go seeking for them. This includes attempting to to gain secrets from the ‘other side’’. God gives them, like healing, as He sees fit according to His purposes and not as we desire.